Good morning. Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,224 words, < 5 minutes.
At this moment 30 years ago, Soul II Soul was atop the Billboard dance charts (and would later reach #4 in the Hot 100) with today's classic intro tune...
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Whew! Democratic White House hopefuls talked about climate change for roughly 7 hours last night in the CNN town hall.
Here are a few takeaways...
1. The whole landscape has shifted. The first question to frontrunner Joe Biden was about whether his plan for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 is too weak. That would be a heavy lift! But the center of gravity on the left has moved in recent years.
2. Kamala Harris made news, when the senator said Senate Democrats should kill filibuster rules if Republicans didn't work with her on a sweeping climate bill. The California senator had previously been more equivocal.
3. Elizabeth Warren also broke news, when she announced support for a carbon tax as part her much wider plan (although with no real detail). The senator had previously signaled interest in carbon pricing in vague terms.
4. Joe Biden was put on the defensive. He faced on-air questions about a fundraiser he plans to attend Thursday hosted by Andrew Goldman, co-founder of the natural gas company Western LNG.
The big picture: There are real differences in some of their positions. Underneath the vows from all the candidates to act aggressively, the event laid bare divides over topics like...
Warren vs. Sanders: One divide that caught my eye was Warren pushing back against Sen. Bernie Sanders' pr0posal to expand the network of federally owned utilities and orient them around renewables.
Jay Inslee's campaign lives on. Several candidates — Warren, Castro, Harris and Klobuchar — approvingly name-checked Inslee's ideas.
More on Biden: The former VP seemed most engaged and comfortable when drawing on his foreign policy roots.
The big picture: I thought the questions were decent overall. And the event captured the vast dimension of the problem.
No matter what President Trump says, coal in America isn’t coming back. And its decline is hitting another big industry — trains, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
Driving the news: Power companies' demand for coal is likely to drop by more than 50% in 11 years, according to a report by the rating agency Moody's.
Where it stands: Because of the industry's outsized dependence on coal, the fossil fuel’s decline is hitting railroads especially hard. Coal makes up 13% of total freight volume, which is the largest single freight commodity moved by rail.
The smart buildings startup 75F Inc. has raised $18 million in Series A funding from backers including the Bill Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Ventures and the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative's VC arm.
Why it matters: Commercial buildings are a significant source of carbon emissions, so tech that helps make them more efficient is important from a climate standpoint.
How it works: "75F offers a vertically-integrated smart building solution that includes wireless sensors, equipment controllers and cloud-based software delivering predictive, proactive building automation right out-of-the-box," yesterday's announcement states.
The big picture: Per Fast Company, "The company has calculated that if its technology was deployed nationally, it would save an equivalent amount of emissions as closing 90 coal plants or saving 827 million barrels of oil."
Officials with ExxonMobil and Chevron "left the door open for more acquisitions" in the Permian basin, Reuters reports from a Barclays conference in New York yesterday.
Why it matters: The world's biggest oil companies have been expanding their footprint in the region that was once largely the domain of independent players.
Bloomberg puts it like this: "A bloodbath in energy stocks is creating a rich opportunity for Big Oil to dominate America’s hottest shale play."
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Electrified autonomous vehicles could eventually help people in disaster-prone areas like Florida find safer ground, but dangerous speed bumps could lurk along the way, Axios' Joann Muller and Kim Hart report.
Why it matters: Roughly 1.5 million Floridians moved inland when Hurricane Dorian was menacing the coast, providing a reminder of the need for mobility when powerful storms are near.
The big picture: AVs might help make evacuations more efficient, former Florida emergency management chief Bryan Koon, now with the disaster consulting firm IEM, wrote in a 2018 blog post.
But, but, but: The shift from personal car ownership to shared mobility, and from gasoline engines to electric cars, will be a slow transition that could actually make mass evacuations more difficult over the next couple of decades, Koon tells Axios.